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The Journey

I choose the trail carefully for the day's walk. Completely sure that I'll be alone, for solitude in nature is often necessary for me. I begin, assured of my way and set off through the woods for the short walk to the trail. This trail is more dangerous than others I travel. For now, I have more to lose. The vulnerabilities from the past put me in the way of greater harm.

After a time, I realize that the mountain's whispers of encouragement have stopped. I pause and look around, convinced I'm in the right place, but the trail has faded. Again, I hear the voice of the Smoky Mountains. The whispers have grown urgent, "Turn around.... now." For once, I ignore the whispers. Instead, I follow past trails, faint outlines, old ways.. believing the results will be the same .This land will not force me to do as I should, but gives warning signs all around -The trail was more worn than this- This isn't the direction you were headed in on the previous hike-

At last, …

The Secret Garden Revisited

I choose the Secret Garden. A place with such meaning, a sacred place, a healing place. A place visited by my shadow and I.

Reserved in my heart for special times such as these, I haven't visited since winter. Now, wild and untamed, the undergrowth crowds close to the trail. I may pass a bear within inches, yet never know.

I make my way to the stream, the same stream that my shadow held my hand as I crossed. The water is so low this time, I am able to make it across easily, stone by stone. No need for my shadow's guidance this time.

The trail has become little more than a footpath. The contrast of the red leaf upon gray trees... now gone. The labyrinth of limbs has become one of jade. I make my way through this labyrinth and down the steep path, where my shadow and I had moved carefully.

I reach the place, where the creek I'm walking beside splits, rushing down either side of me. I find the rock and take a seat. As the water spills by, I study the currents. These…

My Shadow

~ This is a walk taken during the winter at my Secret Garden in the Smoky Mountains. At the time this walk was given by tweet. I would, once again, like to share this special time ~



~ My shadow is the only one to walk with me ~

~ My shadow looks closely as I point out the labyrinth of tangled tree limbs profiled against the sky ~

~ My shadow worries as blood trickles down my arm where caught on briars moments before~

~ My shadow and I appreciate the contrast of a red leaf against gray trees ~

~ My shadow holds my hand as I find a way across the rain swollen creek ~

~ My shadow and I share a rock where the creek splits into separate branches ~

~ My shadow listens as I explain the mystery clear pools of water hold for me~

~ My shadow watches as I run fingertips through the water, enjoying the silk like smoothness~

~ My shadow and I meld into one, in the dim shade of the trees ~

~ My shadow is pleased at the beauty and the vision I shared today ~

~ My shadow and I leave the woods closer t…

The Ghost Remains

As night closes in, the call of the mountains begins in earnest and she responds. As she nears, the whispers begin. The lands hear her. In hushed tones, they reply, "Yes, we await". The skies darken, once again, replicating her mood.

They prepare for her arrival. With the first step, the rainfall begins. Soon, her skin is dampened. She moves forward knowing they have, once again, read her heart. As the rain intensifies, clothes become soaked. The physical melts away and only the ghost remains.

~ Alone again ~ she accepts ~ for solitude is ~ when she is at her best ~

The ghost floats through the low light as mist swirls about. The dark embrace of the mountain holds her close. It's spirit caresses her soul. It's voice, speaking through the roll of thunder, hugs the curves of the land and touches deep within.

With each move, darkness closes in. Moving forward into places most would not dare go, the ghost believes the spirit would allow no harm to come. For it is part of h…

Wonder of Child

Wide eyed with wonder, she approaches the trail. The path is covered in wet fallen leaves. The air is filled with the scent of rain dampened earth. She breathes in deeply.
The soft rain mixes with the warmth to create a fine mist over the water. Such mystery. Standing, watching the stream, the appeal to enter the water and play is strong. She resists the temptation and moves on.
She searches the mountain hillsides crowding the trail, wondering if she'll see a bear... hoping. She pretends for a bit that she is in a rainforest. With the warm moist air, greenery, sound of soft rainfall and call of birds, it doesn't take much to imagine.
Carefully, she avoids the mud, but her eyes twinkle when she sees a clear pool of water in the trail. Without a second thought, she jumps in with both feet, laughing as the spray soaks her. Her skin and clothes are now soaked by the rainfall and her hair has become damp tendrils curled about her face.
The sun breaks through, making raindrops gliste…

The Promise of Peace

Today, I go to the mountains looking for the peace that I know is waiting. I am ready. It has been promised.

The temperature is perfect for this walk. Translucent waters tumble around the trail side stream. I hear the melody of the birds. I am drawn to the luminous green of the lichen against tree trunks. Running tips of fingers over the tiny forest, enjoying the feel.

The skies have grown dim, since an evening storm is approaching. A stillness settles over the land. My footsteps along the trail have even grown silent in awe of this tranquility. I am mystified at how profound the silence is.

The creek has become very low. I make my way onto a gray slab of rock in the middle of the water that has been exposed, watching tiny fish dart here and there. Soon, I rejoin the trail.

The wind has began to murmur through the treetops. This is the only place that I have been able to observe sound. I watch this sound move toward me, the rustle of the leaves soothing.

Moving along, the sight of la…

Searching for Solitude

As is usual, when she enters her sanctuary, she is alone. This time, the atmosphere replicates her mood. The skies are turbulent. Rain soaked trees appear as furious slashes in the dim air. The green of the leaves are of a deep shade, a shade found only in the darkest of imaginations.
Today, she is here, not for fun, adventure or beauty. She came for the solitude. Knowing what she is here for, the mountains do not attempt to offer peace. Instead, they weep with her. Her cheeks are smudged with the tears of the Smokies. Skin dampened, she hugs her arms to her body as the chill deepens.
Carefully, she makes her way down the rock strewn path. Knowing that one misstep could produce even more pain. Coming upon the creek, she stops short. The stepping stones that she had previously used are now underwater. She walks the bank, searching for a way to get to the other side. She realizes that she is at a dead end. Her way is blocked. She turns around and finds another path. Heading down it, she h…

Darkness and Light

alone
bright sunlight ~ dim shadows
blue skies ~ looming mountain
warmth on back ~ chill on wind
birds chirp ~ unidentified sound
stroll through the woods ~ arduous climb
alone
pale green leaf ~ dead tree trunk
peace beckons ~ danger screams
vivid yellow stripe ~ black velvet wing
delicate purple flower ~ jagged rock
alone
crystal waters ~ tangled root
sunlit path ~ slip produce death
yellow bud ~ steep cliff
serenity solitude ~ farther farther
trickle of stream ~ miles onto mountain
scattered gray pebble ~ clutch of outstretched limb
brilliance of nature ~ darkness of cove
Truly Alone

Eden's Touch

Upon entering Eden, she's greeted with a calming presence. Moving down the pathway, the whirlpools of jade beckon to her. She stops, transfixed by the swirling waters. It is a reminder of how her spirit has been tossed. Unlike her spirit, this has a soothing effect.
Moving on, she searches for a seat. She finds the perfect rock over the water. Stepping carefully between boulders, she reaches it and sits. Bare feet dip into icy water. Her breath is taken by it. Sitting still, the cool breeze caresses her cheek. She enjoys it's touch... the touch within her spirit. Slowly, peace floods her soul.
Her eyes search the pathway of the flow. She watches it make it's way between the stones blocking it's path. Nothing will stop it from making it's endless journey. Chills ripple through her body as skin, once again, skims the surface of the water below. Exotic spills rush by taking away the cares. She's needed this so.
Surrounded by mountains on all sides, she relishes th…

Seeking Adventure

I felt a sense of happiness and fun before ever leaving home to come to the mountains today. After having been trapped indoors all week in training, I'm ready to spend some time outdoors.
As always, being here in the mountains, is a balm to my soul. Today, though, feels a little different. With the good mood that I brought, I feel adventurous. A ways into the trail, I spot the fallen tree across the creek again. As soon as my eyes land on it, I know. After resisting so many times, I know what will happen. With a smile and a childlike thrill, I jump onto what has become my bridge across the creek.
With arms outstretched, I head across. Finally, doing what I was tempted to do all winter. Step after careful step, I make it to the other side! Yay! Now, to make it back.. Hopping on again, braver this time, I walk back across. I jump off with the happiness of doing what I had wanted for so long :-)
I begin to feel the rain sprinkling lightly. With the darkening skies, the sound of the wind…

Kastalia of the Rivers

My name is Kastalia. For I am a water nymph, daughter of Lord Neraeos and Lady Ourania. I am a caretaker of the rivers. I was created for a purpose. That purpose being to tend the rivers of the Smokies.
I have come to partake of the solace of my favorite river. I make my way across a tiny stream in the hills. Beautiful, yet I move on. I know what awaits. I hear it's roar in the distance. It calls my name. I am of it. It is of me.
Dew from the heavens has begun to fall. It lands upon my bare shoulders, tracing it's way down my body. I step carefully across roots left for me by a mischievous wood nymph.
The river is now in sight. Oh, what it does to me! Gently, I tiptoe forward. I am close. My breath is taken by it's majesty.
The path downhill becomes treacherous, scattered with huge boulders. I can make it, for the river is my home. The moisture from the night has caused the river to rise. I make it to water's edge and breathe the essence deeply.
The flow, the rush of emeral…

Just for Fun

Feeling in a mischievous and bit of an energetic mood, I decide to go for a walk in the Smokies before the evening storms hit. I message a friend to let him know which of three trails I may choose. (Which would be the only safe thing that I did today) Somehow, I find myself on an entirely different trail than these altogether.
I choose a trail that I have not tried before. Something feels very familiar about the trail. Not far onto it, I pass backcountry hikers leaving. They are carrying so much gear that I began to look for their sherpa :) I am impressed because I couldn't make it to my mailbox carrying this amount of gear!
The temps are perfect for being here. The trail turns into a climb. I had to choose something with this incline today, just getting over an illness? The trail becomes muddy. I cling to the side of the hill, hanging onto tree after tree. I begin to channel Tarzan.
I feel the wind picking up from the approaching windstorm. I had told my friend that, as usual, if I …

Strength Given, Strength Found

Having been sick for over two weeks, I had no plans to be on a Smokies trail anytime soon. Even so, I decide to take a late evening walk. I choose the easiest, flattest trail that comes to mind.
Still not feeling well, I slowly head down the trail, one foot in front of the other. A few short steps into it, I feel my spirits begin to lighten. The trickle of the creek, the rustle of what leaves there are, the crunch of the trail underfoot and the low hum of the wind cause a small smile to spread. Oh, how I have missed this!
I pause to study the flow of the stream. I would love to walk the few feet downhill to stand beside the it, but do not look forward to the effort it would take coming back uphill to the trail. So, I move on. My footsteps are very slow, but in taking my time, I find things that I had never noticed. Exactly the way the stream to my right shifts direction as it joins the bigger creek is but one.
As always, I find peace in the waters of my sanctuary. The water …

Waters of Eden

arched stone bridge,
harbors treasure untold,
no name, no name, beauty so great,
emeralds, tumble and swirl,
underwater, burnett sways,
scores of bubbles, foam white pristine,
sound, ah but the sound,
cascades roar,
layer upon layer, falling, peaceful chaos,
collage, shapes sizes textures, river stones,
jade pools, serene between falls,
summer comes,
barefoot wading thrills,
tiny rocks, toes buried,
flowing, flowing, endless
icicles, bank roots decor
gibraltars rock, stream divided
ripples, slowly toward
fallen tree trunk,
tickled by currents of ice melt
it's twists, upturned roots
unfathomed by Picasso,
followed, springs fountain of youth,
my paradise
until Heaven
my Eden

Shared Secrets

Having a little extra time, I decide to walk up Bote Mountain Trail. I seldom set out with a thought as to how the trail will make me feel on a certain day. Some trails, by their "personality" have a mood already set.
Bote Mountain Trail brings to mind the route that was used to reach Spence Field in the past by James Spence, but nature itself begins to override thoughts of history as I climb. On this hike, the splendor of the earth stands out. I begin to think of those who can't or haven't yet been able to come to the Smokies. Daily, I remind myself not to take for granted the blessing of living here. I think of those unable and wish to convey this beauty.
During my walk, there are still slight snow flurries, the snowflakes so small, as to be almost invisible. Rocky surfaces of the mountain peek from beneath the snow here and there. Snow, that has lain for several days now, pops and cracks loudly with each step, reverberating through the hills.
The rock face of the mou…

A Smoky Mountain Love Story

This Valentine's Day, I spend with my love. I dress carefully in many layers, tugging on tobaggan and gloves. Yes, for Valentine's.. for my love is the Great Smoky Mountains. I fear with the weather, I will be rejected. Yet, as I approach, the gates stand open wide. I find the trail I seek and head down it's snow covered path.
As with any love, there are times when the going isn't easy. In these times, you must search for the beauty. The cold air, the frigid creek tumbling over rocks, the snow lined trees.. the mountain had dressed in it's finest for this day.
My love welcomes me. It delights to feel my steps crunching in fresh snow, while I enjoy the gentle caress of its cold air on my cheek. While most may be put off by the icy water, I slide my glove off, slipping fingertips through liquid crystal. I'm exhilerated by the feel. Breathing in the crisp air, I feel it through my body. Using tongue tip to capture snowflakes that land on lips, I feel alive. An awak…

Coming Home

I first came to the Smoky Mountains nine years ago in 2000. Upon arriving here, I knew that I had come home. The beauty of the Smokies captured my heart. The first trail I visited was Abram's Falls Trail in Cades Cove. Having never been an outdoors person or someone into sports, I was surprised by my immediate attraction to hiking. I began going to the mountain trails as much as possible, experiencing the "personality" each different trail had. I grew to love being there, it being the sole activity I wished to pursue.
After a time, health issues began to make it harder to do what I loved. The hikes became shorter and simpler. My last hike was the short, (what should have been a simple walk) to  Hen Wallow Falls. After struggling to hike this easy trail, I knew it was time to give up. As I drove home, I made the decision that it would be my last. Heartbroken, longing to be on a trail, I stopped going into the mountains.
Four years passed without a hike. This past year, A…